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Saga Welco ship stuck in Canada due to smelter strike

A weeks-long strike at an aluminum smelter in British Columbia has left a Norwegian ship unable to leave the terminal or refuel. Both tugboat operators and employees of the fuel provider are refusing to cross picket lines.

The 2000-built Indiana arrived on July 17 at Rio Tinto’s Kitimat aluminum smelter and has been stuck there since, its crew not able to leave the ship due to Covid-19 restrictions. The vessel is now running short of low-sulphur marine fuel required to be docked in Canada.

The ship’s captain sent a request on August 15 to both Rio Tinto and the Unifor union local to allow the ship to replenish its fuel supply.

Fearing social media condemnation if they cross the union picket line, according to an article in The Toronto Star, employees of Northwest Fuels, the only supplier on Canada’s Pacific coast of low-sulphur marine fuel to foreign-flag ships, will not refuel the ship.

Shipping company Saga Welco, the owner of the Indiana, said its vessel is an “innocent party” in this situation. “We look forward to a quick and amicable resolution so the vessel can complete cargo loading,” said a company spokesperson.

Kim Biggar

Kim Biggar started writing in the supply chain sector in 2000, when she joined the Canadian Association of Supply Chain & Logistics Management. In 2004/2005, she was project manager for the Government of Canada-funded Canadian Logistics Skills Committee, which led to her 13-year role as communications manager of the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council. A longtime freelance writer, Kim has contributed to publications including The Forwarder, 3PL Americas, The Shipper Advocate and Supply Chain Canada.
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